Stunting, underweight, overweight, food insecurity remain public health problems: study

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2022 12:04 AM

The country still has to work on bridging gaps in nutrition, based on the recent results of the 021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) released by the Department of Science and Technology Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI)

Conducted from July 2021 to July of this year in 37 provinces and cities across the Philippines, with over 141 thousand respondents, the objective of the ENNS is to show the “general picture of the food and nutritional situation” during the pandemic.

The assessment on respondents also entailed getting details of their “weight and height measurements of all household members, blood pressure, sugar and lipid profile of adults”, and their “dietary intake" among others.

FOOD INSECURITY

Results revealed that when it comes to food insecurity, “three out of 10 households experience moderate food insecurity, 2 percent experience severe food insecurity”.

Food insecurity is “the state in which people are at risk or actually suffering from inadequate consumption to meet nutritional requirements as a result of the physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access to adequate food, and/or inadequate food utilization,” DOST said.

“Moderate to severe food insecurity was more evident among households with male household head, poor wealth status and with more than five members. Severe food insecurity was more evident among households with poorest wealth status,” DOST-FNRI Senior Science Research Specialist Charina Javier said.

Those who experience food insecurity often result to “purchasing food on credit” and “borrowing food” from relatives and friends during the pandemic.

Others acquire “loan from relative and non-relatives” to fund non- food commodities.

“Severe food insecurity was more evident among households with poorest wealth status,” Javier said.

STUNTING

Stunting, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “low height-for-age”, is still a “high public health concern”.

Citing 2018 figures from the WHO, stunting is at 21.6% for Filipino infants and young children at age 0 to 23 months.

“The prevalence is 8.9% among infants under 6 (months). 15.3% among 6 -11 months and this rate significantly increased to almost 30% (28.6%), a very high level among 12 to 23 months of age,” DOST- FNRI Senior Science Research Specialist Dr. Eva Goyena said.

For pre-schoolers age 3-5 years old, stunting is at 27 percent.

For school-age children (5-10 years old), stunting is still prevalent. One in every 5, or 19.7 percent, is stunted. It is “significantly higher in rural areas and in households of poor and poorest” families.

Meanwhile, “one in every five (22.3%)” of adolescents is stunted.

UNDERWEIGHT

Based on WHO figures, underweight Filipino infants and children is at 12.3 percent, and considered as a “medium public health concern”.

Underweight pre-schoolers with ages 3-5 years old are at 19.7 percent.

This slightly increases at age 5-10 years old at 20.8 percent, or one in every 5 school-age children, where underweight is “higher among males, those residing in rural areas, and those belonging to the poorest and poor households”.

WASTING

Wasting, defined as “low weight-for-height”, is at 7.2 percent and considered as a “medium public health concern” by the WHO.

Ten point 9 percent or one in every 10 adolescents are wasted.

OVERWEIGHT

For Filipino infants to young children, there is a 3.6 percent prevalence of overweight-for- height and 5.9 percent for pre-schoolers ages 3-5 years old.

School-age children ages 5-10 years old have a 14 percent rate of obesity, while 13 percent or one in ever 10 adolescents is overweight or obese.

Obesity is “significantly higher in urban” areas, and higher among “children from the rich and richest households”.

DIET

While 91 percent of infants from 6-23 months “consumed solid, semi- solid or soft foods” at least 2-4 times a day, only 13.8 percent receive a “diverse diet”, or foods belonging to at least 5 or more food groups.

But the “most problematic” aspect, according to Goyena, is only 13.3 percent of infants receive the “minimum acceptable diet”, or the “proportion of children 6-23 months” who meet the “minimum dietary diversity and meal frequency” to “ensure both dietary and nutrient adequacy”.

“Very low po,” Goyena commented.

For school age children, “energy and micronutrient intakes” are also “inadequate”.

CALL TO ACTION

The DOST hopes that the result of the study will enable the government to determine effective measures to address the challenges of malnutrition in the country.

“The ENNS results will also give us insights on how the different government policies and interventions were implemented which may have direct and indirect effects on attrition with the COVID-19 pandemic,” DOST Secretary Renato Solidum said in a recorded message.

“We call on all government agencies development partners, the academy, NGO's and civil society organizations as well as all local government units to invest on nutrition,” National Nutrition Council Assistant Secretary and Executive Director Azucena Dayanghirang said.